UFC 281 Betting Preview

UFC 281 betting preview

Madison Square Garden has seen its fair share of title fights, and the UFC 281 betting is as eagerly anticipated as any other event in the glorious history of New York’s premier venue. Just in mixed martial arts alone, this was the place where Conor McGregor became the first dual champion in UFC history back in 2016. MSG also hosted the incredible 2017 Georges St-Pierre comeback fight where he beat Michael Bisping for the Middleweight belt, before once again riding off into the sunset.


Sadly, there won’t be any Canadian talent on display this Saturday when UFC 281 touches down at the Mecca of combat sports. But this will still be a very busy evening here at Bodog Sportsbook, your home for the best MMA betting odds in the business. Israel Adesanya will defend the Middleweight strap in the main event against a man he knows very well, former dual Glory title-holder Alex Pereira. And in the co-main, it’ll be Women’s Strawweight champion Carla Esparza taking on another former champ in Weili Zhang.

Main Event: Adesanya vs. Pereira

Adesanya (23-1 lifetime, 12-1 UFC) is one of the greatest fighters this sport has ever produced – hence why we covered his top five knockouts inside the cage. No one has ever managed to knock down “The Last Stylebender” inside the Octagon. However, the man he’ll be facing this Saturday at MSG did indeed put Adesanya on his back – in the kickboxing arena.

It’s been five years since Pereira (6-1 lifetime, 3-0 UFC) met Adesanya at the Glory of Heroes 7 event in Sao Paulo, where Pereira escaped from early danger and scored a third-round knockout. This was one year after his unanimous decision over Adesanya in their first encounter at Glory of Heroes 1 in Shenzhen, China.

That second loss was apparently enough to convince Adesanya to quit kickboxing, having amassed a record of 75-5, and concentrate on MMA – where he’s had much more success. But has he bitten off more than he can chew in Pereira, who has also made a successful transition to the Octagon?

Maybe not. As we go to press, Adesanya is the –220 favourite at Bodog to retain his title, up from – 176 when the MMA odds first hit the board late last month and before our very own UFC 281 betting preview. Pereira has slipped from +143 to +175, although he has drawn the occasional burst of betting action.


We’ve had ample opportunity to see what Adesanya brings to the table. Pereira, who still competes for Glory, only made his UFC debut last November; he’s fought three times and won all three, earning two Performance of the Night bonuses for his efforts. His most recent fight was a first-round knockout of Sean Strickland at UFC 276 in Las Vegas, where Pereira cashed in as the +105 underdog.

In theory, Adesanya should be able to use his improved grappling skills to neutralize Pereira’s powerful striking. But there’s no question that the underdog has the proverbial puncher’s chance to win his trilogy fight and walk away as the champion.

Women’s Strawweight Title: Esparza vs. Zhang

This will be the first meeting between Esparza (19-6 lifetime, 10-4 UFC) and Zhang (22-3 lifetime, 6-2 UFC), which is a bit of a surprise given the relative lack of talent in the Women’s Strawweight division. However, Esparza fell off the radar after the inaugural champion at 115 pounds dropped the belt to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2015, and didn’t receive another title shot until her split decision win over Rose Namajunas this past May.

While Esparza was working her way back up the ladder, Zhang was busy winning big fights. A former Kunlun Fight champion in her native China, Zhang felled Jessica Andrade with a flying knee to take the Strawweight title in 2019, then successfully defended against Jedrzejczyk via split decision (in what was named Fight of the Year for 2020) before dropping the strap to Namajunas last year at UFC 261.

Zhang also lost her rematch with Namajunas last November at UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden, but it was a split decision that could have gone either way. A second win over Jedrzejczyk (who retired after getting knocked out in the second round) has Zhang back on the winning track heading into Saturday’s title shot, and she’s the heavy favourite at –400 to come out on top.

Lightweight: Poirier vs. Chandler

The third bout on the main card and in our UFC 281 betting preview is a Lightweight matchup between No. 2-ranked Dustin Poirier (28-7, 1 NC lifetime; 20-6, 1 NC UFC), the former interim champion, and No. 6-ranked Michael Chandler (23-7 lifetime, 2-2 UFC), the former three-time Bellator champion. Poirier, whose popularity rose after back-to-back wins over McGregor in 2021, is the –230 favourite at press time.

This is a very important fight for both of them. Poirier is coming off a losing challenge to Charles Oliveira, who secured a third-round submission via rear-naked choke to retain the Lightweight title last December at UFC 269. It was Poirier’s second unsuccessful stab at the undisputed championship, having been overwhelmed by Khabib Nurmagomedov back in 2019. A victory here is crucial if Poirier wants a third crack at the belt.

Chandler also needs a win to stay in the title hunt, but at age 36, time is running out for the former Division I All-American wrestler. He also lost his title challenge versus Oliveira at UFC 262, then dropped a unanimous decision to Justin Gaethje at UFC 268 – the Fight of the Year for 2021.

As with Zhang, Chandler enters the Octagon on a winning note. He knocked out Tony Ferguson, the one-time interim champion, at UFC 274 this past May, earning another performance bonus in the process. Chandler will pay out at +400 on Bodog’s UFC props market if he defeats Poirier by KO/TKO/DQ this Saturday. The main PPV card starts at 10 PM ET, with the preliminary card on TSN at 8 PM ET and the early prelims on UFC Fight Pass at 6 PM ET.

UFC Crypto Betting

Now that you’re all caught up on Saturday’s big fights and how to bet on UFC, we highly recommend using cryptocurrency to place your bets at Bodog Sportsbook. Traditional methods are still available for deposit and withdrawal, but nothing compares to the speed and security of using crypto to get your money down – not to mention the much smaller transaction fees you’ll pay. Check out our Bitcoin video tutorial series to find out more, and we’ll see you at the Garden.